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Kevin Keegan aims to haunt Glentoran


Kevin Keegan shows off his Irish Cup winner's medal and (inset) being helped from the pitch during the 2004 final

Kevin Keegan shows off his Irish Cup winner's medal and (inset) being helped from the pitch during the 2004 final

Kevin Keegan shows off his Irish Cup winner's medal and (inset) being helped from the pitch during the 2004 final

Kevin Keegan had the shine taken off his big Irish Cup moment 10 years ago. Now, a decade on from winning the trophy, he wants to enjoy another big day.

That means sending one of his former teams out of the competition on the end of a major cup upset.

Keegan played an important part in Glentoran's Cup final victory over Coleraine back in 2004.

Now aged 34, the winger is playing for Belfast Telegraph Championship 2 side Armagh City, who host the Glens in tomorrow's round six tie.

And before you go writing off the Eagles in their battle with the holders, it's worth remembering that they caused the big shock of round five by dumping Premiership side Ards out of the competition.

That result has boosted the belief at Holm Park and the contrast between the Glentoran team that he played in and the one he will face tomorrow has also raised Keegan's hopes of springing a surprise.

"I set up the goal for Michael Halliday in the 2004 final, but I ended up going off before half time after pulling my hamstring, so I've mixed emotions to a certain extent," said Keegan who joined Armagh from Donegal Celtic last summer.

"I still have the medal at home. I won two league medals and two League Cups as well with Glentoran and I have happy memories of my time there.

"I was fortunate enough to play with some great players, like Tim McCann, Gary Smyth, Paul Leeman, Colin Nixon and Mark Glendinning.

"Michael O'Neill was there for a while too and Andy Smith scored a lot of goals, that helped him get a move to England.

"The team at that time was unreal and we were flying.

"The financial situation back then allowed the club to bring in that class of player.

"Obviously things have changed in recent years and they have brought young players through, but they have put a good youth system in place and they are getting the benefits of that."

Armagh were seconds away from beating Ards at the first time of asking. Indeed they didn't even have time to restart the game after Craig McMillan's last-gasp equaliser.

Things got worse for the disappointed City players just over half an hour after the final whistle when the draw for the next round threw up a home time with Glentoran.

They earned the glamour tie though with a stunning 3-1 win in the second meeting, after Ards had taken an early lead.

"After Ards equalised in the last minute of the first match and then we pulled out Glentoran in the draw for the next round we thought the worst," admitted Keegan.

"We thought that our one big shot had gone and that we wouldn't get to play Glentoran.

"It wasn't even that Ards had an off-night and we got lucky, we played well and in the second game we showed that we are a good team.

"At our level we're used to playing PSNI, Queen's University who, with respect, are good footballing teams in a tight league, but we were stepping up two leagues to play against Ards and Glentoran is another step up – they are among the elite in the Irish League.

"There is a big gulf there, but the boys will have no fear.

"They want to play good football and they want to play for each other.

"We have to play the crowd as much as the game itself and I expect that Glentoran will bring a good support with them. If we can keep it tight for 15 or 20 minutes they might start to get restless.

"If we played Glentoran 10 times they would probably win nine of them – we just have to hope that this is number 10. I've no doubt that the players will perform as best they can in this game and we won't put pressure on ourselves."

The Glens were reigning Irish League champions when a late goal from Stuart Elliott spared their blushes in a previous cup meeting with Armagh 14 years ago, before going on to lift the trophy that season.

And tomorrow they will face a team that boasts a fantastic home record. They are unbeaten at Holm Park in 22 matches – dating back to last February – with a record of 21 wins and one draw; gained by Ards last month.

"I couldn't actually believe it when I was told how good our home record is and that it stretches back for over a year," added Keegan.

"It gives you confidence, but at the same time you can't be over-confident when playing against a quality team and go all gung-ho against Glentoran.

"We have to pick our moments in the game and take our chances when they come."

Keegan is also ready to twist the arm of manager Marty Rice to ensure he gets a place in the team.

"I've had a knee injury and then over Christmas I had the flu, so I've been on the bench a lot lately," said Keegan. "I did play 90 minutes against Banbridge Town in the Mid-Ulster Cup on Tuesday night, but the manager might not start me.

"I might need to have a word with him and tell him that he needs players with experience on occasions like this."

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